Counting Days

Himachal politicians pray at Ghadi Wala shrine

The campaign dust has settled in Himachal Pradesh after the Assembly elections on 9 November. A long wait for counting day on 18 December has begun, as winter sets in. For politicians of all hues who were in the fray, it is now time to pray for victory. Many of them, while travelling by road between the hill state and Delhi, are stopping at an interesting place of worship to seek blessings. Located on National Highway 1 at Kalyana village near Shahabad, short of Kurukshetra (as one heads towards Delhi from Ambala), it is the shrine of Syed Mohammad Ebrahim. But it is popularly known as “Ghadi Wala Baba”, as most of the devotees give wall clocks as offering. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and Health Minister Thakur Kaul Singh are known as key devotees of the Ebrahim. Punjabi singers Gurdas Mann and Daler Mehndi have been seen visiting the place. A nine-metre grave of the “Highway Peer” exists at the shrine. People from all walks of life, especially truck drivers keen for a safe journey, visit the shrine. It has now been listed as a “tourist attraction” on the website of Kurukshetra district. The spot is managed by the Haryana Wakf Board. The premises have a mosque and a temple of Lord Shiva. Haryana Wakf Board’s manager Ali Sher said, “Offering clocks and watches has become a popular ritual here.” But he could not say how and when this strange practice started. It is generally believed that the Baba was a contemporary of the first Sikh Guru Nanak and that he had come from Iraq and settled in this village. There is this local lore that several decades ago a truck driver offered a clock at the shrine, praying for timely and safe journey on the challenging National Highway 1. Over the years, this myth spread among the truckers and many started offering clocks. Punjabis form the majority of people stopping at the dargah. About 300-500 people visit the shrine daily; the number swells over a thousand on Sundays. On an average, 250 litres of mustard oil are offered at the shrine in a week. It is distributed free among underprivileged families. The clocks and chaddars are gifted to the poor local families on the marriages of their daughters.

‘I am development, I am Gujarat’

Fight breaks out over Gujarat’s Vikas

Congress’ anti-BJP catch-line for Gujarat, “Vikas gando thayo chhe (Development has gone crazy)” on social media has made the saffron party to sit up and hit back recently with over a four-minute video clip on social media with a counter-tagline: “Hun chu vikas, hun chu Gujarat (I am development, I am Gujarat)”.

It is learnt that “Vikas gando thayo chhe” was the creation of a frustrated 20-year-old civil engineering Patidar student from Ahmadabad, Sagar Savalia. The Gujarat Congress’ IT cell immediately picked it up. Savalia was allegedly the victim of the police lathi-charge at Hardik Patel’s rally in Ahmadabad on 25 August 2015. He was beaten by the police though he was not a member of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti then.

A day before the second anniversary of the Patidar rally, Savalia posted on his Facebook page a picture of a state transport bus resting on its broken axle with its wheels running backwards, with the tagline: “Vikas gando thayo chhe.” It became an instant hit.

As it got circulated across the country, the BJP’s IT cell countered it with massive force on social media. This resulted in the recent counter tagline, “Hun chu vikas, hun chu Gujarat” in which a youth in a subtle way ridicules a press reporter and his friend in a barber shop as they were running down “Dictator Modi”. Ultimately, the two were impressed by his arguments about the PM’s great and bold decisions and many other noteworthy social and development issues. They asked him his name. Smiling, he said, “Hun chu vikas, hun chu Gujarat.”

On an average, 250 litres of mustard oil are offered at the shrine in a week. It is distributed free among underprivileged families. The clocks and chaddars are gifted to the poor local families on the marriages of their daughters.

‘Research ‘

Designer Babies in Gujarat?

Gujarat has come up with the futuristic idea about the creation of “designer babies”.

An Ahmedabad-based lady bureaucrat, Jayanti Ravi, dealing with health issues has suggested that India should do extensive research to develop “designer babies” who, when they grow up, can become Nobel laureates and creative thinkers. Jayanti Ravi, Gujarat’s health commissioner, says, “We should work on the gyanendriya (sense organs) and karmendriya (organs of actions) of as many children as possible. It could be in the form of music, texture, touch or smell.”

“It is very important to nourish the baby within you before it is born,’ says Jayanti  Ravi.

“It is very important to nourish the baby within you before it is born, with a lot of nourishment which is not just food for the belly, but a lot of stimuli for the brain,” feels Ravi. An NGO in May had said that its “Garbh Vigyan Sanskar” project planned to deliver “customised” babies for parents. “Our main objective is to make a ‘Samarth Bharat’ through ‘Uttam Santati’ (perfect offspring). Our target is to have thousands of such babies by 2020,” an official of the organisation had claimed.

Unfulfilled Promise

Chinese investments not materialising for Haryana

A Chinese major, the Wanda Group seems to have backed out of its promise of investing $10 billion in Haryana. The state’s industrial department says that the Wanda empire has run into rough weather, and there are reports that the entire business is getting liquidated. The last time that the Haryana government heard from Wanda was four months ago. Reports coming from Beijing say that the group has fallen foul of the Xi Jinping regime.

The memorandum of understanding that the Haryana government signed with the Chinese MNC was for developing a world-class comprehensive industrial park, to be known as Wanda Industrial New City.

In the joint venture with the Haryana State Industrial Development Corporation, the Chinese were not ready to give 26% stakes, as demanded by the state government, as it would have given the government regime the right to veto during disputes.

The sources said the Wanda group’s investment plan included construction of five industrial and theme parks, in addition to shopping malls in the Wanda Industrial New City, which was to be located along the Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor within the National Capital Region.

In phase I, the Wanda group was to set up an industrial park in Sonepat for companies in software, automotive manufacturing, machinery and healthcare education. There was also a plan to construct a Wanda Cultural Tourism City and a residential district.

Under Attack

Opposition questions Mamata’s d.litt

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has come under attack for allegedly “managing” to get an honorary DLitt (Doctor of Letters) degree from the prestigious Calcutta University. She will be conferred the degree during Calcutta University’s programme in Kolkata’s Nazrul Mancha on 11 January 2018 “for her contribution towards Arts, Literature and Social Services”. She joins the likes of Rabindranath Tagore, Satyajit Ray and Amartya Sen as a DLitt recipient.

However, Calcutta University’s first woman Vice Chancellor, Sonali Chakraborty Banerjee is being criticized for this decision. She is the wife of a senior West Bengal cadre IAS officer. The CPM has dug up an old story about her “fictitious PhD” from a presumed US university. In 1984, Banerjee, while contesting the Lok Sabha elections for the first time, would use the Dr prefix to her name, declaring that she had a doctorate from East Georgia University in the US. “There is no such university over there,” the Marxists had claimed. Later, she dropped the Dr from her name.

Man Mohan can be contacted at






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